By Li Zhou | 04/20/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Alex Byers, Ashley Gold, Margaret Harding McGill and Nancy Scola
DRIVING THE DAY: A BUSY MORNING AT THE FCC - FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is facing arguably the biggest day yet of his tenure atop the agency, with seven items up for a vote at today's open meeting. Two of those items - a report and order on business broadband and a plan that relaxes how media ownership levels are calculated - have garnered significant attention from Capitol Hill, making this morning's activity more politically charged than other agency work this year.
- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Pai's business broadband order argues that there is strong competition in the so-called business data services marketplace - essentially the opposite stance of the Tom Wheeler-era FCC - and makes some changes to the way the agency regulates those products. Democrats like Mike Doyle and Ed Markey have asked Pai to postpone the vote, as has the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. On the media ownership front, Pai is proposing to reinstate the so-called UHF discount, which would make it easier for some TV station owners to declare a smaller reach when complying with the 39 percent national audience cap. The move could essentially give broadcasters more flexibility to buy other TV stations - and was excoriated by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone in a letter Wednesday.
ALSO ON THE DOCKET: Commissioners will also vote on proposals related to the Connect America Fund and wireless infrastructure. Stay tuned after the meeting, as Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn plans to debut her own post-meeting press conference, her office tells MT.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH ON OSTP'S STATE OF PLAY - Nancy has the latest on the positions that have been filled at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the ones that remain empty under the Trump administration's watch. POLITICO filed a Freedom of Information Act request on April 7 for the current list of OSTP staff. Here's the document and some quick takeaways. Read more here.
1) The office is still powered by Obama-era aides, with just a single Trump hire. Of the nearly four dozen people listed in the FOIA document, only one was hired during the Trump administration: Michael Kratsios, a former chief of staff at the venture capital fund run by Trump adviser Peter Thiel.
2) The U.S. CTO's office has nearly emptied. No CTO has been named, and the administration hasn't said definitively one way or the other if it will have one.
3) The overall size of the office is about a third of what it was under Obama. Predictably given Obama's stated interest in science and tech (remember that he created the White House science fair), OSTP during his time in office grew a great deal, to about 115 staffers.
4) The drops in staffing levels vary across divisions. While on one end there's the nearly vacant CTO's office, on the other end (unsurprisingly, given the nature of its work) is the still functioning budget and administration wing: Of the eight people that worked there at the end of Obama's tenure, all but one remain.
5) Some jobs responsible for high-stakes policy-making remain open. The job of OSTP director - filled for the length of Obama's time in office by John Holdren (who holds a Ph.D. from Stanford in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics) - is still unfilled.
GOOD THURSDAY MORNING and welcome to Morning Tech, where Ashley, our resident coffee snob, is having a conniption about this. Send your tech, telecom and transition tips to email@example.com and @liszhou. As always, catch the rest of the team's contact info after Quick Downloads.
POLITICO Event - Rebuilding America: A New Infrastructure Agenda - Join POLITICO for a discussion on the prospects for a major national infrastructure push from the new administration and Congress. Speakers include: Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Building America's Future President Marcia Hale, Club for Growth President David McIntosh, and Chamber of Commerce ED Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer. Monday, April 24 - 5:30pm - The Newseum. RSVP: here.
BIG PUSH ON COPYRIGHT BILL - More than 50 groups and companies including the Copyright Alliance, Oracle and the Motion Picture Association of America are pressing the House to schedule a vote on proposed legislation (H.R. 1695) that would make the register of copyrights a president-appointed, Senate-confirmed position. "This bill is not about any one President, any one Librarian, or any one Register. It is the product of four years of bipartisan, bicameral discussion," the organizations write in a letter today . "A few who are interested in weakening copyright policy are trying to polarize debate with partisanship, personal aspersions, and ad hominem attacks." The measure passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in a 27-1 vote, but it's been criticized by Democrats like Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who note that it would deprive Carla Hayden, the first African-American woman Librarian of Congress, of the power to appoint the register.
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DELRAHIM GETS HIS DAY IN CONGRESS - The Senate Judiciary Committee will review Makan Delrahim's nomination to head the Justice Department's antitrust division next Wednesday, April 26. Delrahim has said he doesn't see the AT&T-Time Warner merger - which would be under his purview if confirmed - posing an antitrust problem.
GOP LAWMAKERS FUNDRAISING IN VALLEY THIS WEEK - Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is leading a trip out west with several other Republican leaders, which will include a fundraising event at the home of Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison today, Recode reports. Other techies who are expected to make an appearance at the gathering include Oracle CEO and Trump advisor Safra Catz, former Apple CEO Mike Markkula, and former general counsel of Facebook Ted Ullyot. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are also reportedly taking a jaunt to the Bay Area as well.
SILICON VALLEY MUST-READS -
- Google, Facebook, Uber oppose second travel ban: More than 150 tech companies filed an amicus brief Wednesday asking a federal court to toss out the Trump administration's second attempt at a ban restricting travel to the U.S. by people from certain countries, Ashley reports. The brief, filed in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, was signed by 162 companies including Google, Yelp, PayPal, Amazon, Netflix, Adobe, Airbnb, Facebook, Intel, Lyft, SpaceX, Tesla, Uber and Yahoo.
- Wanted: 10,000 volunteers for Alphabet health study: The company is gathering data for a four-year health study investigating how healthy people get sick, CNBC reports. Alphabet's life sciences branch, Verily, is collaborating with Duke University and Stanford Medicine to conduct the research, which will require participants to wear health trackers and get their genomes sequenced.
- Think typing thoughts: First, Elon Musk proposed the creation of technology that could merge people's brains with artificial intelligence. Now, Facebook has shared its own plans for a brain-to-computer technology that would enable people to type using their thoughts, The Verge reports.
WHAT'S IN PAI'S POCKET - FCC Chairman Ajti Pai's public financial disclosure report shows a fiscally responsible diversified mutual fund portfolio, a college savings plan for his kids and retirement accounts. He also has some income coming in through a rental property in Kansas City, Mo. He doesn't report holding any individual stocks. As a political appointee, Pai has to report the information to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, though he doesn't have to report his salary or the value of the home he lives in. All told, his assets could be worth up to nearly $2.2 million, but keep in mind the values are reported via large ranges.
RICKETTS BOWS OUT - Donald Trump's choice for deputy commerce secretary, Todd Ricketts, has withdrawn from consideration, a source close to Ricketts said today, POLITICO reports. The decision by Ricketts, a Chicago Cubs co-owner and TD Ameritrade board member, to withdraw his name was due to difficulties untangling his financial holdings to satisfy ethics rules, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which first reported the news.
LIBRARIANS LOVE BROADBAND - The American Library Association recently hired J.A.Hill to work on broadband infrastructure and other issues, according to a new filing . It's another sign of the broad interest generated by the idea of including a broadband buildout in a national infrastructure plan. "ALA agrees with the many congressional leaders who've said that every American needs high-speed broadband and that it must be part of the coming infrastructure bill," the group tells MT. "ALA hired an expert because, especially in tight times, leveraging America's 120,000 libraries to get broadband to almost every community is the best first investment toward that goal Congress can make."
ICYMI: TECH GAVE BIG TO TRUMP INAUGURATION - Tech and telecom giants that have pending policy issues in Washington were large contributors to the Trump inaugural committee, POLITICO's Darren Samuelsohn and Madeline Conway report: "AT&T, the largest single corporate donor for January's official government handover, gave $2.1 million as it awaits federal approval of its merger with Time Warner" and "Qualcomm donated $1 million while it continues to fight an Obama-era Federal Trade Commission anti-competitiveness complaint." A rundown of some other tech and telecom contributions: Microsoft and Intel gave $500,000 each while Google gave $285,000. Comcast and Charter Communications gave $250,000 each while Verizon and Samsung gave $100,000 apiece. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who played a role in the Trump transition, gave $100,000 as well.
ON THE 'CASE' AT THE SMITHSONIAN- President Trump on Wednesday signed a resolution that reappoints AOL co-founder Steve Case as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian. Case was first nominated for the position in 2011.
TRANSITIONS - William Lake, former FCC Media Bureau chief, joins Wiley Rein's Telecom, Media & Technology (TMT) practice as consulting counsel. ... Nicholas Bailey, digital director at the American Action Forum, is headed to the Amazon Web Services team. ... Gary Epstein, chairman of the Incentive Auction Task Force, is retiring from the agency at the end of this month, Margaret reports.
Hyperloop One slows down: It's pushing back its testing timeline and has shortened the length of its test track, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Tesla and former autopilot head settle in court: They settled on an agreement, which prohibits the former exec from trying to recruit Tesla employees for one year, Reuters reports.
Google's next steps on ad-blocking: It has an ad-blocking feature in the works for Chrome, The Wall Street Journal reports.
FTC cautions celebrities on sponsored content: "The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that it sent more than 90 letters to stars, athletes and brand marketers whom it claims were not clearly labelling paid social media endorsements," Mashable reports.
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